Creating a budget is one of the best way to keep your expenses under control and make sure you use your money wisely: meaning you spend your money according to your goals and aspirations (go on holidays, buy a new car, change jobs…).

That’s exactly the same thing with time: as we have a limited amount of money, we also have a limited amount of time to use.

Time is a precious resource that, unlike money, can’t be replaced.

You definitely can get more money, while you can’t have more time. We’re only rich of 24 hours a day, 168 hours in a week. Time is a resource that does not vary. That’s why it’s a valuable resource that you don’t want to waste.

And that’s why you need a time-budget! 😉

What’s a time-budget ?

The time-budget is an overview of how you ideally spend your time.

Just as you would do with money, you assign each category of tasks & activities (sleep, work, chores, hobbies, family…) an amount of time you’re ready to spend on them.

And just as with a money budget, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to strictly stick to it. It’s more an intention that is here to remind you where your priorities lie and a frame that will encourage you to make progress on your goals.

How to create a time budget
1. The “musts” list

The first step to create your time budget is to list all the things that you have to do: these are your « musts ». At the end of this first step, you’ll have a better idea of how much time you can spend on additional projects or hobbies.

You may have to make choices between hobbies or maybe personal projects depending on the available time you can find when reviewing the first version of your time budget.

Start by listing all the activities and tasks that you have to achieve on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. These are all the things that keep you alive & well and the ones that allow you to make a living: sleep, meals, grocery shopping, chores, work, time spent in transportations…

Make sure to includes the tasks that you don’t do often, but that still have an impact on your time budget. Think of monthly or yearly tasks such as car repairs or taxes for instance.

For each of these tasks, estimate the minimum amount of time you need to achieve them (in hours).

Of course, all the figures here are estimations. But if you’re feeling like having an accurate overview of how you spend your time, you can try to monitor it during a week or even a month. There are a wide range of apps and websites that can help you with that matter! The last time I checked (I’m not a big apps user so there may be some new cool apps that I’m not aware about!), Toggl  was one of the most popular tool to time track various activities.

You can also simply use the time schedule featured in the second part of the post and a color code to keep track of how you actually spend your time.

Once you’re done, multiply or divide it to get the time you spend on them on a weekly basis.

For instance, let’s say that every month, I need to spend 4 hours deep cleaning my flat.

To know the time it takes me on a weekly basis, I’ll divide this time by 4 (as there is usually 4 weeks in a month – more or less): 4/4=1

This means that, in addition to my weekly cleaning chores, I spend an other 1 hour per week cleaning my flat.

Here’s an example of my own time budget. You can use it as a basis to create your own, but as I don’t have a family, own a house or need to drive 30 minutes to go to work (I work from home), I have a very few « musts ». Anyway, it will certainly give you a better idea of what your time budget should look like so far !


How to create a time budget
2. Free time

Once you’re done with your list and calculations, you’ll be able to assess how much available , “free” time you have in a week. The amount of free time you have is the total time you have in a week (168 hours) minus the time you spend on all the tasks and activities in your « musts » list.

In my case, my free time is : 168-111,25=56,75

This means that I have 56,75 hours available for myself once I’ve done all the vital activities.

And believe me, it’s not that much !

How to create a time budget
3. The wants list

Now, list all the things that you want to do with your free time: this includes family time, video games, reading, TV and series, sport, time out with friends… It’s basically all the things that you enjoy doing even though they’re not vital to your survival.

Once again, make the maths and calculate how much time you’d like to spend on these activities in a week.

Remember that you’re designing your ideal time budget here. This means that even though you’re actually spending 10 hours a week in front of your TV, you can decide to cut that time in your time budget to make it 6 hours (or less, that’s obviously just an exemple).

You may need to make some choices to make your various activities fit your time budget. If you do so, make sure to decide according to your current goals and aspirations. A time budget is certainly not a forever vail and you can review it as your goals evolve over time.

How to create a time budget
4. Drawing an overview

The last step of creating a time budget is to create an overview of it.

It’s optional, but that’s a great way to visualize where you should put your efforts to make your actual schedule as close as possible to your ideal time budget.

Take all the activities you listed in your « musts » and « wants » lists, and create a color code from them.

On a sheet of paper, draw a table with 168 boxes : ideally divide it in 7 columns and 24 lignes standing for the 7 days of the week and the 24 hours in a day.
If you don’t want to spend too much time drawing your table, you can download mine here (the printable fits a A5).

Now, color the boxes according to the time budget you created and your color code…You’re done !

The colored table gives you an overview of the time spent on your various activities. Drawing it is also an opportunity to make last minute adjustments, and to acknowledge how you spend your time !

Creating a time budget is a bit tedious, but in the end, it’s a great way to see where your time goes, and to decide how you want to spend your free time. You will probably be stunned by the amount of time you spend sleeping, or in transportation. Any way, it will probably gives you insights on how you can make improvements to create time for the projects and habits that matter the most to you !

Side notes

👉🏻 In the example, I created a time budget focused on personal life. But you can also create a time budget focusing on profesional activities. Creating a time budget for work is a great way to acknowledge how much time you spend (or ideally spend) on each of the activities ou have to handle, and decide where you can cut your budget to make time for new projects for instance.

👉🏻 If you regularly review your life goals (which I strongly encourage you to do), do the same with your time budget. It will allow you to adjust it depending on your aspirations as they change over time.


Have you ever made a time budget yet?